Open vs. Closed

No. This post is not about Apple's closed vs. Android's open system. Anyone still talking about that doesn't understand their business models.

Do I Look Bored?
Do I Look Bored?

One of the theories of good storytelling suggests tying different characters' arcs into a common theme. In Don Jon, the main character, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is addicted to porn because he savors that perfect girl doing perfect things like giving the perfect blowjob. His new girlfriend, played by Scarlett Johansson, is addicted to romance movies where the perfect guy meets the perfect girl and they're perfect for each other. Both adult and romantic films are forms of porn because they depict a sort of perfection, or perversion, that doesn't wholly exist in the real world.

This past weekend's social events seemed to depict one common theme. Saturday, I had dinner with a group of people and was talking to an acquaintance. Mr. SUV jabbered about his girlfriend, so I asked him why she wasn't here. She's complex, Mr. SUV responded. My interest piqued because I love observing and talking about relationships, what makes them work, what doesn't. I asked what made her so complex?

"Well...I call her my girlfriend, but...she doesn't really want to see me. We don't see each other much."

I pursed my lips. "So, you're taking a break?"

"No...we still talk...she doesn't want to spend time with me. It's frustrating."

Uh...what? Trying to get more information resulted with more confusion on my part, but the thought that came to mind was:

Moments later, he was talking up his SUV, how good it was, the value, its horsepower. He would drive a hybrid but it wouldn't impress the ladies. What? Quality women don't care about the car you drive, they care about being with a confident man, I barged in. The ladies at the table nodded.

"You haven't seen the kind of women I meet," Mr. SUV said.

"What women? You have a girlfriend."

He chuckled. I was a little frustrated with him, I don't know why.

The next day, I went with a hiking group to Yosemite on a day trip. It was incredibly beautiful, air smelled clean. I'd made my way around and talked to everyone, sharing my humorous side throughout the day. Afterward, about ten of us went to dinner and the strangeness from the night before continued, despite being a completely different group of people.

A Harvard grad kept pestering me about the racial mixture of Venezuelans. I told him several times I didn't know because I left my country at a very young age. Mr. Harvard wasn't listening because he was crushing on Prada Girl, whom he carpooled with.

Prada Girl was flicking through Facebook, paying little attention to the conversation until the topic strolled to shopping. She liked having brand name purses such as Prada and showed off hers. Before going back to her phone, she mentioned that her older brother had paid for a lot of that stuff. I asked why.

Then Middle Woman said that's what brothers are for. I asked her if she was the youngest. No, she had two siblings, an older brother and a younger sister. Curiosity tickled my mind, and I asked if Middle Woman felt left out because she was the center child. She shook her head.

The conversation moved to our jobs, and Miss Moneypants was asked if she liked what she did. Miss Moneypants worked for a company that built components for satellites. "I'd be happier if I made more money."

"Would you be happy if you were paid 500,000 dollars as a prostitute?" I quipped.

"Why would you ask that?" Miss Moneypants said, shaking her head.

"You seem to put a lot of happiness on money," I said. 

Another woman was brave enough to turn that question on me, which I appreciated. Before I could answer, Miss Moneypants stated angrily, "I know YOU would."

ooh...I need to get a hair cut
ooh...I need to get a hair cut

Several people said I was asking personal questions. I guess that depends on who you are. It's not like I had a gun and threatened them to answer. They could just have ignore me.

"Answer me, or I'll—uh—ask you another question!"

There's a bigger issue here, and I'm not sure if it's because these people were Asians. Everyone seemed very closed, unable to have an open conversation. In a way, I think, they don't want to confront themselves and see that they might be living a lie.

In the instance of Mr. SUV, he places his own value on what people think of him, so he has this girlfriend who doesn't want to spend time with him. Miss Moneypants places her happiness on money, the one thing that can be easily taken away. Prada Girl hides behind her brand name clothes and accessories, while Mr. Harvard can't seem to get it up and flirt with Prada Girl, so he pretends to be intellectual about something he has no involvement in.

Much like the characters in Don Jon, both are trying to recreate the life they see on the screen, not knowing that life isn't perfect. Part of their growth is that happiness shouldn't be linked to anything that life has to offer but is innate within them, and, as such, they should let go of all pretense.

Leggo My Ego

I’ve been waiting for this night for seven years! I write about ego in NIGHTFALL, talk about it, how it can affect choices. I don’t actually lecture about it, making the narrative a freaking lecture, which was how I felt Dan Brown was doing in THE SYMBOL. I just weaved the affects of ego through the narrative, hoping that I’ve communicated my views through subtext.

 Broke Back

Broke Back

Tonight was a historic night.

One of the most talked about UFC fights was UFC 162, Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman (pictured left). Silva (pictured right) has been the reigning middle weight (185 lb) champion for the past seven years. In mixed martial arts (MMA), that is unheard of because no one has accomplished that, save Silva.

I’ve always felt that Silva had an ego, though you'd never know with the words he uses. Like a shark that can sense blood from a thousand miles away, I can sense a person's ego. We see evidence of Silva's arrogance in his previous fights when he taunts his opponents, giving little respect, despite the fact that he says he respects every single opponent.

[gallery columns="2" ids="2470,2469"]

Actions speaks louder than words. Women know this. I know this. Does this make me a woman?

Silva’s fights always starts with some form of reading his opponent, where they’ll attempt some form of attack, but Silva always evades, doing calculations like a supercomputer, reading their reach, timing, rhythm, skill, mind set, etc. And once he’s done with his calculations, he pounces and often finishes his opponents in the second round.

When the main event of UFC 162 started, I saw Silva come out, completely relaxed. Weidman charges to the middle of the octagon, also relaxed. In spite of Weidman, who is a very accomplished wrestler, taking Silva to the mat, the champion easily evaded all submissions attempts and got back to his feet. A few moments later, Silva’s supercomputer was on its way to finishing the calculations. I know this because when the champion starts taunting the challenger, he'd figured out Weidman. My body reacted from watching all of Silva's other fights, expecting a huge knock out finish of the challenger. From my point of view, Weidman seemed lost, but he also looked relaxed, a good thing. End first round.

Here’s the important part. When the second round began, Silva came out and taunted Weidman again. When Weidman tried to strike, Silva would dodge and move as if the challenger had nothing on him. The champion even pretended he was hurt when a punch grazed by his cheeks, an expert at going with the flow of punches, making him very difficult to knock out. More taunting, show boating ensued, something the fans of the UFC, and me, were used to.

Then it came. Weidman threw a combination, which was a little messy but worked because a half-hearted back fist had forced Silva’s head to flow left, and he blinked. Weidman quickly followed it with a punch to the chin, knocking down (out even as Silva’s eyes rolled up) the former champion. Weidman then followed Silva with punches to the ground to make sure he was done.

 Knocked Tha Ef Out

Knocked Tha Ef Out

So this is a long diatribe about how ego can be anyone’s downfall. I’m not saying I don’t have one, but I’m aware of it enough to not let it step in front of me and control my actions. Most of the time.

Ego has brought down civilizations, religions war over which god is better killing millions upon millions, corporations have withered away when the focus is on material wealth rather than serving the people. Sometimes it takes time. I mean, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it took a damn long time before it fell. Israel is still a subject of huge contention. Blackberry and Microsoft were caught with their pants down when Apple released the iPhone.

I’ve written how I’ve left my martial arts school because I didn’t believe in them anymore, their form of teaching, and the egos displayed in every inch of that school. They commented on my website, trying to dissuade me from my opinion, and as I’ve written here, I don’t read reviews unless I’ve solicited for it. My former school, on the other hand, have changed part of their system to accommodate for my criticism, and failed because they simply didn’t understand my article and the simple truth about how humans learn physical movement. The crazy part is that article listed simple things they could do to improve their student’s abilities. Dorks.

Yes, I do have a spy there. And they will never figure out whom. If they did, oops. Sorry, dude. Or dudet.

No Doubt

 Holy shit! I'm buffed!

Holy shit! I'm buffed!

Ah, Netfrix.  I mean, Netflix.  Asian accent.  When Conan, not the barbarian, O'Brien,  was ousted by Jay Leno's return to the Tonight Show, he had a clause in his contract that he couldn't go back on television for six months.  So he rebelled and went on tour and made a movie about it called Conan O'Brien Can't Stop.

There were two interesting things that I learned from that movie.  As he was finishing up the development of his tour, he had run into a phase of doubt.  Severe doubt.  This is a guy who has an incredible track record of writing good, funny stuff.  He's written for shows like the Simpsons and Saturday Night Live.  His run on the Late Night with Conan O'Brien from 1993-2009, The Tonight Show from 2009-2010 is nothing to sneeze at either.  So a guy like him, who has a huge fan base, shouldn't have doubts, right?

 My Hair!

My Hair!

And according to Wikipedia, he settled for about 45 million dollars to leave. Doubts?

Yeah.  Doubts.

I was very surprised.

Who among us hasn't had doubts in any part of our lives?  I know when I sit to write, doubt is something I don't think about.  Neither is writing a best seller.  Writing the best story that I can is my focus, putting forward my most bestest effort ever.  Afterwards, doubt trickles into my consciousness.  Sometimes heart pounding doubt, in which I go back and revisit what I wrote with a magnifying glass.  But that only makes the words bigger.

But it's a small comfort that a guy like Conan has doubts.  Yes, he's human, and it's human nature to doubt.  But Nicholas Sparks is human.  At least I think so.  From some of his interviews I've read, he compares himself to Hemingway.  Now, I ain't gonna judge, your honor.  You can do whatever you want, but I've never liked people who had that mightier than thou attitude.  Get over yourself, dude.

 In other words, you suck

In other words, you suck

You can't say that about Conan.  He self deprecates himself on his new show, nightly.  He's loyal to his crew.  Twelve million of that settlement went to them.  And he has an air of quiet confidence, which allows him to be self deprecating because, for the most part, he knows it ain't true.

The second thing I learned was  Conan never reads reviews.  Someone off camera had asked if he read reviews of his stage show.  His personal assistant states they're a waste of time.  I hear that a lot.  From broadway greats such as Lea Salonga, to great romance writer Nora Roberts, and famed Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe don't read reviews of their work.  Hell.  Johnny Depp doesn't even watch dailies, which I think are the takes filmed on that day.  And I agree.  I don't read comments made on my site, nor do I read comments about my writing on other sites, unless they're  my friends'.

You hear that?  Yes, I'm talking to you select people.  Welcome back and see Blacklisted.

Standing in a room of a hundred people, there can be a hundred varying opinions of me.  I can't control what they think.  I can't change what they think.  So why worry about what they think?  Everyone has an opinion, just as they do assholes.

More and More About Less and Less

As a writer and a former student of acting, I people watch. Sometimes I’m judgmental when I don’t mean to be. A lot of times I form stories in my head. And most of the time the stories happen on their own. Not sure what it is that makes me do this, but here I am. If you’ve read my bio, then you know how I feel about the martial arts school I’d come from. But in their defense they have worked very hard to become nationally recognized, especially under the Ed Parker name, and have good relations with certain officials in the Chinese community.

 Uhhhhh...

Uhhhhh...

And in the great comedic words of Brian Regan: I don’t want to step on anyone’s beliefs…well…here we go.

I had received an invitation celebrating the head black belt’s 25th anniversary in martial arts, honoring him as teacher and master. The man has done a lot for the school and the discipline. And here’s where I have an issue: the discipline.

 Da Man

Da Man

I had majored in kinesiology, study of human movement, at university. One of the fundamental principles in learning movement is repetition.

 Ah...uh...it's an A!

Ah...uh...it's an A!

Take writing for example. When we first learned how to write the letter ‘A’, we probably traced dashed lines that formed that letter. The teacher then removed the training wheels and asked us to write the letter ‘A’ on a blank sheet of recycled paper. We learned how to sound out simple words like ‘see’, ‘dog’, ‘run’. Learned the basic structure of a sentence. Then we were taught what a basic paragraph looked like.

 Whoppah!

Whoppah!

Learning martial arts isn’t too far from that. You learn what a fighting stance is, where to put your hands, learn defensive moves like blocking and attacks like punching and kicking. The teacher demonstrates. The student follows.

Once a student learns the alphabet (punching, kicking, blocking), simple self-defense techniques are taught. Someone grabs your shirt, you trap his wrists by grabbing them so he can’t hit you and knee him in the nuts, the balls, the family jewels. More properly known as the groin. (Why are all attackers male?) As the color of your belt changes, so does the complexity of the techniques, like learning how to write a paragraph.

There’s only one problem with this.

When a high school student is given an assignment to write an essay, she must come up with the words on her own. She’ll be given a subject, but she has to do the work.

Fighting is no different. When a person gets attacked, she must fend for herself. Her teacher won’t be there to help. And because people are different, so are their attacks. An attack on a woman will be different than on a man. A man attacking will be different than a woman attacking.

Now, if you’ve watched a boxing match, you’d know that a fight is very dynamic.

Fundamental principle in human reaction: When learning how to cope with two or more different kinds of stimuli, one must train in that similar environment. So if you want to play classical music, then you'll train to play classical music. Make sense?

 The Greatest Ever

The Greatest Ever

Boxers work on technique all the time. Thing is, he can have the best punch in the world, but it’s useless if he can’t hit his opponent. So he focuses on accuracy through different drills like mitt and bag work, and, more importantly, he spars. Not only does he have to contend with his own footwork and where he is in relation to his opponent, he must deal with his opponent’s aggression, physical strength, etc. However, having one sparring partner can become stagnant. Often boxers will have several to mix things up. One person’s tells in poker will differ from another, as an example.

My former school did almost no partner drills or pad/bag work with their general student population. No physical drills in an art that is physical. So what did they do? Practice self-defense techniques in the air. Something Bruce Lee argued against vehemently. Below is a video of how most of the training is done but wasn't from the school I'm referring to. It's just a random video that showcases my point.

It was at this point where I’d realized their method of teaching was highly limited. Then came the straw that broke the camel’s back.

We had often made fun of other disciplines like Tae Kwan Do, Karate and such. That once someone gets a black belt, they learn more of the same stuff. They have a saying: You learn more and more about less and less. Clever, yes. Astute? Not so much.

In the school, once a black belt is earned, “new” techniques are learned. All of which are practiced without a partner, in the air, like a student learning to trace more and more complex essays. The value wasn't there. It's like a wrestler practicing alone on the mat. If he only does that, he's not going to fare well against a live person.

They teach: Think outside of the box but bring it to us first and we’ll let you know if we approve of it. My best friend brought them ideas, which they shot down, only to integrate them and call it their own. They gave no credit to my friend. Why? I'm not sure. I don’t think they know. Many of their teachers left, teachers whom I like to term thinkers.

So when I got the invitation, all I could think of was how little has changed there. Certainly, the head black belt has learned a lot. Knowing what I know about human movement, I am certain he’s learned more and more about less and less.

Listen to Yourself

 All I want is money, power, a nice car, and a bag to hold my doggy in

All I want is money, power, a nice car, and a bag to hold my doggy in

Don’t you hate it when you see a fine young woman and know that she knows that you know that she knows she’s all that? Translation: Because she’s beautiful, she’s going to be high maintenance, conceited, and only want to date guys within her league.

Or at least that’s what a friend said to me on many occasions. He was head over heals for a woman who was beautiful and immediately started to judge her. I’d gotten to know this fine young thing, sorry couldn’t help myself, and she’s nice. She is high maintenance, which isn’t due to her looks, but she’s actually insecure about her looks, despite her looks. Huh?

 Well, hello! Nanoo, naanooo!

Well, hello! Nanoo, naanooo!

I’d questioned my friend, who I’ll call Mork, why he thought this way about “Mindy”. “All beautiful girls are like that. All they want is money, a man with power, and a guy with security. That’s why it’s impossible for me to get someone like that.”

My jaw dropped off the earth, circled the moon, and swung off into the beyond.

“Did you just hear what you said?” I asked Mork.

“What?”

“Maybe you think women are this way because you have insecurities about yourself.”

 Uh oh

Uh oh

He stared at me like I had shined one of the LED flashlights into his slanty eyeballs.

It’s no wonder women complain men don’t listen. We don’t even listen to ourselves.

I’d applied for an online writing class. The application requested two references who’ve read my writing. It wanted their names, email addresses, birth dates, blood samples, urine samples, social security numbers, psychological breakdowns, and favorite color. OK, maybe not favorite color. But references? It’s not like I’m applying to be an FBI agent. My best friend sent in a raving reference, making me look like I was the Pope of writing.

 I's be the Ef Bee Eye

I's be the Ef Bee Eye

I’d received an email stating that the school will get back to me within a week to let me know if I was qualified to take the class. Included with the application was a sample of my writing. A couple of days later, I was accepted.

Immediately I thought: Ooh. They must need students and not gotten enough applicants for the class.

Did I just say that? To me?

Obviously, this put a damper in my day as I realized where I truly thought my capability lay as a novelist.

Now, to be clear, it doesn’t matter whether I’m a good writer or not. It matters whether I think I am, or not. As Henry Ford said, either way I think, I’m gonna be right. Gonna…is that good writing?

So a gateway into what you think of yourself are the thoughts that come into your mind. Although, that thought could've been situational. Like the kind a lot of people have when their airplane goes through turbulence. A lot of people are afraid the plane will crash. It won’t. But if we put too much energy into a thought, especially ones that reflect our abilities, then we will eventually fulfill them, good or bad.

Like Mork. He’s cool enough to charm a beautiful woman, he’s financially stable, something women want, and he has good values. But his constant negative thoughts on what women want limit his ability to attract them.

Trash Talk

 Number one, suckas!

Number one, suckas!

Trash talk.  When it comes to sports, trash talk can spell death for the one talking. We saw this with the men's French swim team in the last Summer Olympics held in China. “The Americans? We’re going to smash them. That’s what we came here for," Alain Bernard said, referring to the freestyle relay event.

Despite being heavily favored to win, the French lost.  Not sure if you can tell by Phelp's reaction:

 My pants...!

My pants...!

Even when you win, trash talk is something fans don't appreciate but pay attention to cause it creates drama. Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a great example, considered as one of the best boxers in the world. His trash talk had earned him searing spite among fans. So fans pay to watch the fight to see him lose or get knocked out. As of today, no one has been able to do either.  Still, fans of the sport give little respect to the man holding a 41-0 pro record.  An oddity when legendary greats like Tyson or Ali have losses.

I had attended this past weekend's UFC 117:  Silva vs. Sonnen.

 Get away from my behind

Get away from my behind

Anderson Silva is considered the best pound for pound mix martial arts fighter in the world.  All of the top fighters in his division (185 lbs) have tried to beat him.  None ever came close. Silva has won 11 straight wins coming into this fight. In the world of MMA where there are innumerable ways to lose, this is amazing.

But I was never a fan when Silva came to the UFC, and I doubt I'll ever be.  Why?  I want someone who's open and real, and somehow he's not genuine. I'm not the type to like someone just because he's a winner.

Then comes in Chael Sonnen. He was an NCAA Division I All-American wrestler at the University of Oregon, two-time University National Champion in Greco Roman wrestling, and a US Olympic team alternate. But forget about that.

Not only did he sell tickets and create interest in his fight with heavily favored Silva (7 to 1 odds) with his trash talk, he had earned a fan with me. Here's why:

"I think I can win this fight, I don't know I'm gonna win," said Sonnen on Jim Rome's radio show.

This has been my life's philospy. If you wanna be a New York Times best selling author, an Academy award winning actor, a great pro athlete, then you have to start with "I can" and not worry about "But will I?".

You gotta be in it to win it.

And for four and half rounds, each one being five minutes long, Sonnen had dominated Silva.  As far as I know, Silva had only lost one round in his UFC career. Silva vs. Sonnen was one of the most exciting fights I had seen. I was one of very few who leaped out of the seat, Jersey Shore fist pumpin, screaming as Sonnen pounded away at the champ.

 Oh, crap!  I caught his chin!

Oh, crap!  I caught his chin!

 Get your hands off my face!

Get your hands off my face!

But like all greats, Silva had pulled a triangle hold and won the bout.

Sonnen had backed up every single word, save winning the championship belt. But in the world of MMA, he has made himself a huge factor and revealed a gaping blackhole in a once invincible champion.

No Pain, No Gain?

No pain, no gain.

Ronnie Coleman is an 8-time Mr. Olympia.  Mr. Olympia is the pinnacle competition for bodybuilders.  Arnold Schwarzenegger has won it seven times.

In anyone's travels to the top, which I hear is a lonely place, there are sacrifices that have to be made.  Especially in the sports arena, a lot of athletes work with the adage "No pain, no gain."  I've also heard the downside of that philosophy, over working, over training.  Let's face it.  Too much of anything is bad.

We can't go more than a few days without water.  In an apocalyptic world, water would trump gold any day.  But drink too much water, and you'll die.

I've been going to the gym for many years.  I've seen many of the same faces.  And many of the same bodies.  Now, I can't really judge their intentions for going to the gym.  Some need the exercise, prescribed by their doctors.  Others want that rock-hard, beach-ready look.  I can, however, read their intentions by their actions.  And I'd say most people who go to the gym want to look good nekked (naked for those who is unfamiliar with Eddie Murphy).

Here are a few indications:  the gym is pact during New Years and Mondays, guys grunt needlessly as they lift, others talk about their fast cars when scantily clothed females are near by, and still others roll up their t-shirt sleeves, glaring at themselves in the mirror.  Even worse are those who spend endless hours on the treadmill or stationary bike, reading books.  But rarely do I see any change in their body composition over the years.

What do people do instead?

Whine and quit.

So, maybe, no pain, no gain is the way to go.

When I first started training, a friend of mine would go lift with me.  Not only did he have the worst form, but his diet was full of crap food.  And within a couple of months, his strength gains and build had improved faster than I've ever seen.  He was also very athletically gifted, and suffered no "pain".

Recently, I had talked to a kid who was going to the gym four times a week.  He'd been working out for several years but made little headway to the physique he wanted.  Looking at his body, I asked him what he did.  Once he became aware he made little progress, he did a little researched and realized he'd been complacent.

Now, every single workout is different.  It takes a bit more effort, putting more thought into his workouts, most of his sessions are difficult both mentally and physically.  I see him.  From the very first set to the last, he pushes hard.  I feel the pain as he hammers out each set.  As a result, he's able to lift more weight than a lot of the bigger guys in the gym.  And he's reaping the rewards.

The key here is that he became aware and made changes.

So life isn't just about no pain, no gain as much as noticing where you are, what have you done to get to where you want to be, and do you have to make changes that may be uncomfortable to fulfill your dreams.  For some, it's painless.  For others, it's not.